Then Monday…

Ever have one of those? A Monday – the one you weren’t expecting but thought you had all planned?

Not too long ago Tuesday was supposed to be a blue sky, low temp, low humidity South Florida day (those get rarer this time of year). I was excited to have my grandson that day and had big plans. But on Monday I decided some heavy duty scrubbing was needed.

Before evening came I was gritting my teeth, wondering how I would even walk behind a two year old, let alone pick him up. Funny how easily our world ‘falls apart’. Sometimes the least thing and all the doubts surface. I’m thinking we must make Jesus sigh an awful lot. “He sighed deeply and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign?’ “ (Mark 8:12a NIV) We’re no different than when He spoke that 2,000 years ago.

Doubt – universal. We doubt ourselves, we doubt those close to us, we doubt those in power, we doubt foreigners, we doubt God. It’s true. Hard as it is to admit, I do doubt the Father – in my weak moments.

It is in those moments He reminds me: His strength, not mine. His ways, not my ideas. His perfect love, not my conditional love.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)

This year is marching on and I’m trying not to look back and assess what did or didn’t happen. Trying not to be anxious about what will or won’t happen in the next eight months. Living in the now is His call to our hearts. Every moment precious. Living thanks for wonders, joy, peace – and for the hard too.

I don’t want to be doubting Paris – I want to be trusting, faithful – free. We’re captives, enslaved, when we let anxiousness take over. We’re free when we take God at His Word.Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

What’s Left?

I love a celebration – but sometimes in the hurry and scurry meaning is lost. What remains (and was there before) is a whole lot better.

Chocolate bunnies and plastic baskets are done. What’s left? The miracle and the sacrifice. I’m pondering these things so I can learn to live them better.

The day set aside is our remembrance – a way to pass on generation to generation. But in the quiet moments of early morn, or in the ruckus of the everyday – can we find a way to live Resurrection daily? Jesus was raised, and so were we. “And with Him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12b NLT)

God, who is outside of time, has told those bound by it – ‘through Jesus you are held in eternity now’.

This is a mystery because our minds are so concrete. How can we be here and raised with Him? How can He be at the Father’s right hand and in our hearts? How can our sin be separated and we be made righteous when tomorrow (or maybe the next moment) we will outright do the wrong thing – again? “How far has the LORD taken our sins from us? Farther than the distance from east to west! “ (Psalm 103:12 CEV)

That is the true beauty of the Resurrection. For nothing is impossible with God. He made a way, He followed through, and we are new/eternal/secure.

Too often I get lost in the ‘what if’ that may not happen – do you? I fret and wonder how will this all work out? Lately I’m realizing that the ‘work out’ – is my ideas of how things should be, what it will take, how it will look. But then I remember God is not bound by my ideas and His are immensely better – not only for my concerns, but yours.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NIV) This requires one thing – faith. And even that is His free gift. There is never a price for us to pay, He’s paid it all. What’s left? The very best, it was always there and it always will be: Jesus.

Restless…

Easter – there is no more momentous event. Someone, a perfect Someone, was willing to make the absolute sacrifice – making it possible for you and me…to live forever.

What kind of crazy love is that? The best, the only true. I’m thinking about that week leading up to Him hanging on a cross. I’m wondering as the murmurings increased, as evil crowded in,  as those twelve dear disciples journeyed with Him – was there a restlessness that set in?

Jesus was busy: “Jesus spent those days teaching in the Temple, and when evening came, He would go out and spend the night on the Mount of Olives.” (Luke 21:37 GNT)

Jesus, the human side, must have felt the weight. Jesus, the God side, knew His work was about finished. All those He loved (from before His time on earth, those during His time on earth, and all of us who have come after) were His focus.

Souls so lost and separated from God. Did He sigh? Knowing how hard this earth would be for us to navigate. I think He also smiled, knowing that not one who loves Him would be separated from Him. “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 20:19 NIV)

I get restless. I hear reports of babies that never got to live out their days. I see evil strike terror in hearts. I feel soul sadness at how mixed up we all are in how we view each other, treat each other.

And there is much we don’t see, for we are so self-focused. The spiritual realm all around us teems with battles between good and evil. All creation here moans waiting for the final redemption.

Waiting – that’s the restlessness. Knowing this isn’t all there is and wondering ‘can we hold on til our Someday?’ So being restless isn’t so bad after all, for in that sensing that things aren’t right yet, in the waiting for the Return – we must seek the Source that stills our anxiousness and reminds us: He is Risen! “Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God’s right side, speaking to Him for us.” (Romans 8:34 CEV) Happy Easter indeed.

What We Need To Hear…

Lots of things I want to hear: ‘you look great’, ‘good job’, ‘I’ll take care of it’ – and the list could go on.

I’m learning (very slowly) to check my words before they tumble out. But I’m also learning to listen and see if they are truth. My friends, my hubby, my sweet children, and my perfect grandchildren don’t need words that don’t have the weight of truth – and the security of truth – and the freedom of truth.

God loves us enough to tell us what we need to hear – no fluff. And found in every verse – every carefully chosen word – there’s perfect love. Only a perfect love can speak to our hearts and make them confident, make them secure, make them soar free. “There is no fear in love; perfect love drives out all fear.” (1John 4:18 GNT)

This isn’t an easy thing. I would much rather open my Bible and read along only to find the Holy Spirit telling my heart ‘good job, Paris’ – instead of ‘hmm, maybe think about things this way next time’. But that ever so quiet prompting not only changes us, it makes us useful to others.

I tell my grandson on our forays outside: ‘listen to the wind’, ‘do you hear that bird’, ‘the thunder goes boom’. He listens, sometimes cradling his ear. Then I whisper ‘Jesus put those sounds there’. He did – to get our attention – to make us stop – for just a moment. “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish–ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28 HCSB)

We’re heading towards Easter – a celebration that no one should miss. This is grander by far than anything we celebrate, and yet, we sometimes lose it in the baskets and candy. About two thousand years ago the words we need to hear were spoken: “Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30 NIV)

And then, “He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.” (Matthew 28:6 NIV) Maybe if we keep these words ever constant in our thoughts we won’t long for the words of this world and will rest in the Words eternal.

6 Replacements, No 7

A rumbling whoosh of electricity – exclamations of ‘what was that?’. He runs outside checking, I go from room to room. Then I see it, fire in the oven. 

The element in our oven super-heated as I warmed breakfast. We called about replacement parts, but were warned there was more going on than just the element. New stove time.

That’s like us before Jesus, He says we need a whole new life. “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.” (1Peter 1:23 NLT)

Even so, along the way we will need some replacement parts – dying to old ways, coming alive to His ways.

  • Anger – a lot of energy with little return. But how to break free before breaking a relationship. Replace it with Adoration – of God. (Hebrews 12:28)
  • Betrayal – a friend, spouse, co-worker – deep wounds. How do we move on, find healing? Replace it with Belief. (John 14:1)
  • Distrust – because of so many let downs. When those disappointments invade we can trust Jesus. Replace it with Desire – to know our Savior better. (Romans 8:5)
  • Fear – at any given moment we may find our old friend, fear, clouding our mind. How about a better friend? Replace it with Freedom. (2Corinthians 4:17)
  • Hurt – past and present, trying define who we are. Remember all the hurt our Messiah endured – from those closest to Him at times. Replace it with Hope. (2Thessalonians 2:16-17)
  • Pain – physical or emotional, drains us and keeps us self-focused. Hard to remember it’s temporary in the midst of it, but that’s the truth. Replace it with with Promises. (2Peter 1:3-4)
  • Rejection – at one time or another, it’s gonna happen – again. But there is One who accepts us – in light of His Son we’re always wanted, loved. Replace it with Reconciliation. (2Corinthians 5:18-20)

Our replacements are rooted in Christ alone. Only He can change our hard hearts, only He can mend our broken hearts, only He can assure our fearful hearts. 

Jesus never said things would be easy here – but He did promise to never leave us – and He’s put in us the Holy Spirit, the best replacement part ever – for He will never let us down.

Even Us…

So I’ve been doing this thing, most mornings. I got an old hymnal (btw I can’t sing…at least not well). Starting with hymn one I’ve been listening to and singing along.

A joyful noise for God only. Because there’s something about praising Him. Each one has deep truths, much joy, and is a tune to carry us through the day. I’ve learned that through the ages our sorrows have not changed, happiness is fleeting – but joy is always ours.

Pick up any Bible and turn to about the middle and you will find yourself in Psalms. Songs for God, about God, longing for God, needing God, praising God – songs for thirsty souls. “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)

I came across one that somehow I knew – it’s an old one and the guy on YouTube said ‘your grandmothers probably love this one’. Not having grown up in church I don’t know why it was so familiar. The title is Wonderful Grace of Jesus, and in the chorus it says ‘all sufficient grace for even me‘.

Even me. Even you. Yes, all our baggage isn’t too heavy for God – and all our shortcomings can be used by our big picture God. “What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom He also called” (Romans 9:23-24 NIV)

Have a past you wish you didn’t? Guess what, it’s been wiped clean. Living a hard, heartache you don’t know if you can endure? You can’t, but He will see you through. And some sweet day – all of it won’t even be a distant memory.

Because some day, not so long from now, we will see Him face to face. “For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.” (Psalm 11:7 NIV)   For a fleeting moment we may wonder ‘even us?’ – but He speaks “Always you”.

 

Living the Dream…

Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. Like teen boys putting on a manly persona – one foot still in childhood and the other ready to make their way in the world.

We begin life thinking the universe revolves around us. Somewhere along the way we realize that isn’t so, but we still feel secure. Unless – love hasn’t been abundant. Then we make hard shells around ourselves. Like a cocoon we break out at some designated date as ‘adults’. This is what I see in far too many these days.

They indeed may be successful in business, career, or academics. They’ll tell you they’re living the dream. But what is the dream?

Big money, fame, power, photo perfect bodies? This is what our world would have us believe. Then why so empty and still trying to fill the hole? Dreams based on satisfaction found in what ‘we’ can attain are always short lived. Because, once attained, we move on to what’s next.

Even those with the least self-serving dreams here on earth will only find their fulfillment in the One whose way is narrow. For only He can mend hearts, end bigotry, make bodies whole and healthy, fulfill longings that never seem to be met.

What if living the dream wasn’t things, but a kingdom? No, not castles and servants and whims – God’s kingdom. The one that has no more sorrows or death. “What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever.” (1Corinthians 15:50 NLT)

How to reach young hearts before they lose heart? How to reach hearts so calloused there seems to be no hope? The Word of God. It’s powerful – and it is not up to us to decide if the timing is right. It’s never a waste of time to speak life. If a heart doesn’t accept it today, do we not trust God can use it in their future? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NIV)

We only live in regret when we don’t speak the gift we have – for though man may find it foolishness, it is their very lifeblood. Living the dream – for God’s child it means living in confidence that no matter what happens in the here and now, perfect somedays are awaiting us. It also means making sure those hearts around us don’t miss out.

No End Beginning…

A lazy spring day, long lunch with a friend, the perfect vacation – things we wish wouldn’t end.

It’s hard for us humans – endings. Simple things like a beautiful day are one thing but the death of a sweet friend? Unless…it’s not the end but a forever beginning.

A couple thousand years ago Daniel lived in a foreign land where those climbing the royal ladder lurked with traps. Daniel was oh so faithful to God and a reliable servant to King Darius. But a trap was set with a penalty of being put in the lion’s den – a gruesome, fear-filled way to die. The trap: any man who prays to any god or man except for King Darius, lion food. Daniel knew the decree but “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10b NIV)

When Daniel was hauled off he could have thought it was the end, begged for leniency. No resistance. Daniel knew what you and I need to grab hold of and not let go: God is with us. If we die in this world, we are still with Him. If the lion’s mouths are shut, we can still praise Him.

This is the truth about death when it comes to a child of God most high: “And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” (Daniel 6:23b NIV)

Life may scar us outwardly. The world may wound us inwardly. But someday we will be lifted out of the den and we will be whole and clean and found blameless. Because this is our Jesus promise: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV)

The no end beginning for Daniel? The king issued a new decree – ‘in every part of the kingdom people must reverence the God of Daniel’. “For He is the living God and He endures forever; His kingdom will not be destroyed, His dominion will never end. He rescues and He saves; He performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth.” (Daniel 6:26-27 NIV)

You, me – we have the living God who is never ending. He rescues and saves us – now and forever.

Planted Where?

Not a master gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but I love containers with green and colors flowing over.

What you and I don’t see is the spidery roots warm and cozy down in the soil. Drinking up moisture and nutrients and anchoring in place what we do see. Just what we need when it comes to our souls. To flourish in our harsh environments we need good soil, nourishment, and something to hold us steady. 

“Those that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalm 92:13 WBT)

The thing is this is not one and done. Doesn’t take long for tender shoots to wilt if we forget to water them. And once well established, grooming and feeding change ‘just growing’ to ‘thriving’. But sometimes that’s painful.

I hate pruning roses. Seems harsh, but left alone they don’t produce much. Recently my husband cut a scraggly bush way back. Lo and behold, the new growth is amazing. So it is with us. God sometimes has to vigorously prune to transform us from ‘just believers’ into ‘pursuers’ who thrive and attract others. “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92:14 NIV)

Hmm, that’s sounds good. I want to be fresh and green even in old age. Not in the sense of no wrinkles or white hair, but in the sense of a heart that has left behind selfish ways and is filled with the dew of Christ’s nourishment. So how? And why?

This is a daily thing. Surrender, prayer, His Word, repentance. We are a constant work in progress. As we outwardly grow old, inside we are being refreshed and renewed. And someday that new will last forever. No more pruning needed. But still why? Because this life is not all there is. To live for self means fading away like a bouquet of flowers. To live for God and His eternity is being well rooted and ever green.

Then we will go about declaring “The LORD is just; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” (Psalm 92:15 HCSB) Planted where we thrive – in Christ’s love.

All Times…

Sometimes I let people down. Do you? Sometimes I let myself down.

It’s gotten harder in our world of instant everything. To take the time to think before we speak, act, react – seems archaic. So there’s face time, instant messaging, texts, and more. ‘Instants’ we can’t take back – at least not without damage done. 

Then, too, our world is all about self – abandoning any thought of sacrifice for others. Does this person make me uncomfortable? Will that job affirm my self-esteem? If there’s any left over at the end of the month, then I’ll give some away. “Treat others just as you want to be treated. “ (Luke 6:31 CEV)

I’m learning more these days about how we disguise our ‘self’ stuff as acceptable, after all we’re not as bad as the guy on the news or the lady two doors down.

So we’ll say Jesus is top priority. Then we demand our way at the expense of another’s feelings. We justify our speeding while we give the dirty look to the slow driver. All this is selfishness and selfishness is the root of all s-i-n. “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4 NLT)

Just today, for the third time in one week on the same subject, I have tried to manipulate my hubby into fixing the water issue at our house. I’ve tried to guilt him into it. I’ve tried everything but…trusting that he knows the issue, the urgency, and it will get done.

This is bossy me. Maybe for you it’s not bossy, maybe its overwhelmed by life and seeking comfort in whatever form, or maybe its feeling like a failure. How can we replace these with good – and so glorify God? God wants us to realize He is always the answer. Bossy – name it and lift up your soul and ask for help. Seeking comfort in food or some other abuse – realize He is comfort, the best kind, ask. Telling yourself you’ll always blow it – He can redeem all our messes, surrender.

Nearer than our own heartbeat is the God who caused us to breathe – and He wants us to know in everything He is our answer and His love is for all times…

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